Thursday, December 5: Mary Lenaburg

“Longing for Heaven”

When I was a small child, I was terrified of dying. It confused me, this idea of Heaven. I couldn’t see it, so it was hard to believe it really existed. I wanted nothing to do with it. The nuns told us stories in religion class and my parents assured me it was where we would all be safe with Jesus when we were very old. They held me and whispered encouragement and ministered to my tender heart when I would wake up with a nightmare about death. 

As I grew up and matured in my faith, that fear slowly ebbed away, leaving me completely upon the death of my father. He was a flawed man who had battled demons throughout his life, but oh how he loved the Lord and his most Blessed Mother. He faithfully and fearlessly went home to Jesus in May of 2001, rosary in hand, family surrounding him, praying him to Heaven. It was in that moment that I understood what longing for heaven meant. 

Longing is defined as a “strong desire or yearning”. 

My Dad longed to be with Jesus and he was ready when God called him home. As hard as it was to let him go, there was peace that things were as they should be in God’s plan. Not that I understand why God does what he does all the time, but that I have no doubt God sees and knows all and I do not. From the moment of his last breath, I longed to see my Dad fully restored to health once more. My own faith journey changed that day, deepening in a way I did not expect. 

I began to long for heaven, to be surrounded by the eternal love of Father, Son and Spirit and to be reunited with my Dad. That longing increased ten-fold the day God called my daughter home to Him in December of 2014.  

Courtney was one of His special children. She had suffered from daily seizures since she was five weeks old. She was blind and wheelchair bound. She was non-verbal and never took a step under her own power, yet she was pure JOY. Her laughter filled the room the way holy incense fills a church. She was the heart of our home and our lives revolved around making sure she was loved and cared for as best as we could. There was nothing she could do on her own, she depended on my husband and I for her every need. 

Courtney showed us the face of Christ every single day. She called out like the Lion of Judah to be freed. Her smile directed us toward heaven and we longed for her complete healing and restoration, even though we knew would only come on the day she entered God’s heavenly embrace. We desired heaven’s healing for our daughter. We were not afraid, we were hopeful for the day Jesus would come take her hand and walk her home, for there she would run the streets paved with gold fully restored to perfection. Her passing was the most beautiful day of my life and also the hardest day to endure. You see, I knew that when she closed her eyes here, she would open them in Heaven and the first person she would see was her beloved Jesus, the one she had suffered so beautifully for. She would run into His arms with such JOY and I have no doubt she remains there to this day. 

But my arms were empty. I longed to hold her again, to feel the weight of her so close to my heart. I wanted her here and my heart shattered when she left me behind. Slowly over time, Our Lord and His Mother Mary have ministered to my broken heart, putting the pieces back together, filling me with a yearning desire for Heaven, not just to be with my Courtney and my Dad but first and foremost to be with my God who made me in His image and likeness and who blessed me to walk with both of them through this life. 

I yearn for that moment of reunion, to see my God, my Father, who loved me before time existed, who created me in His image and likeness, for greatness. I yearn to be held in the arms of my Lord Jesus, My Beloved who has held my heart so tenderly all these years. I yearn to be witness to the power and might of the Holy Spirit, the spouse of another girl named Mary, whose fiat changed the world.

As we wait in joyful anticipation for the birth of the baby that comes to save the world, giving us the greatest gift one could ever ask for, to open the gates of heaven, I am struck by this desire to be there now. My heart is restless, desiring reunion with the one who gave his life for me. My heart longs for heaven. 

We long for and desire many things in this life, but are they the right things? Do you yearn for heaven? Do you long to see your Savior’s face and feel his grace shine upon you? Do you wish to hear His voice say “Job well done, good and faithful servant”. I do.

St. Cyprian wrote of his desire for Heaven saying “Who of us, if he had long been a sojourner in a foreign land would not desire to return to his native country? How great will be our common joy upon the transports of meeting together in those blessed abodes.”

A baby is coming, friends, one who will change the course of human history. His Father longs for us with such ferocity that he sends His Son to save us. First in a manger, then on a Cross. That is our way home, so let us prepare for the journey.

Mary Lenaburg is a writer, speaker, wife and mother sharing her witness and testimony to groups of all ages about God’s Redeeming love and that faith is the courage to want what God wants for us, even if we cannot see where the path leads. Acceptance + Trust = Unimaginable Joy.

Mary’s first book, “Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God During my Most Difficult Days” is available wherever books are sold.

Mary and her husband have been happily married for 31 years, finding joy among the ashes having lost their disabled daughter Courtney in 2014. They live in Northern Virginia with their grown son Jonathan. She continues to embrace her father’s advice: “Never quit, never give up, never lose your faith. It’s the one reason you walk this earth. For God chose this time and place just for you, so make the most of it.”

You can learn more about Mary at her website, www.marylenaburg.com.

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